Insomnia

I used to fall asleep within seconds of closing my eyes. Danielle used to tease me about it. She would say something to me in bed and I would JOLT awake and she would think that I was just playing with her. “Stop faking!” she would say. “You were not asleep, we JUST got in bed!” But it was true. I could go to sleep whenever, all I had to do was get under the covers and close my eyes. It was fantastic. But sadly, that talent left when she did.
Falling asleep is the worst part of my day, every day. I spend my whole day afraid of that moment, honestly from the time I wake up. It’s an uncomfortable thought so ubiquitous it’s almost corporeal, hovering around over my left shoulder, silently reminding me that eventually today, I’ll have to do it again: No matter how good today is, or how many friends I see, or how well my set goes, I’ll eventually be left alone in my bed with all of my saddest, scariest thoughts.
As soon as she left, I stopped sleeping. Right after she moved out, I started pacing my sad, empty apartment all night. I would put Ethan to bed and sit on the floor of his room for a while and listen to him breathe softly while he held onto my arm. And when that became more sad than comforting, I would just walk back and forth from my bedroom, through the kitchen, to the big windows of the living room, and back again. I would stare out at the SLC skyline and watch my homeless neighbors on the street below, pacing parallel with me, all of us anxious and aimless all night long. Just one of us actually had a nice, big bed going to waste while he cried about how unfair life was.
I’d stand in the frame of my bedroom door and just stare at that bed. Standing there, I could see back just a couple months prior when we bought a brand new mattress and bed frame. It was the first mattress we had ever bought ourselves, and it was the first time in years that our bed had been up off the floor, on an actual frame. We bought it from IKEA and had a bitch of a time assembling it. I could see us sitting there on the floor at 4am, with screws spread out on the floor and Master of None on the TV. Just months ago, my life felt so sure and so real that I took it all for granted. Now I’m standing here alone in the dark and I even though I haven’t yet stopped playing it over in my head, I still have no idea what the fuck happened.
And those thoughts still haven’t gone away. They just wait for me. All day, just waiting for me. And when I’m alone, they pounce. So I surround myself with distractions. I surround myself with people, the best I can. (*I’ve learned that most people though, have actual lives and actually plan ahead, and can’t always drop everything when I suddenly feel scared and frantically text everyone I know something like “HEY! ARE YOU DOING ANYTHING RIGHT NOW? WANNA DO SOMETHING? ANYTHING? LITERALLY ANYTHING?” so I apologize. Sorry guys.*) But I’ve gotten (slightly) better at planning my daily distractions ahead of time. And I can have days full of friends and fun and sometimes even productivity! But none of that matters come bedtime.
No matter what I do today, no matter how distracted I keep myself, there’s still this awful, terrible moment, where I’m alone and quiet and waiting for sleep to take me. And in that moment, I usually cry. It’s often surprising, or at least it used to be, how fast I could break down. I had felt so happy just a moment ago. And it wasn’t until now that I realized I had actually been sad all day, I had just compartmentalized it, set it to the side, tried to ignore it. But you can’t suppress those feelings forever.
So I got tired of crying myself to sleep. So I started staying up later and later and later. Rather than face that quiet moment, rather than let that sadness out of his cage, I’d just start another movie, maybe get something to eat, just watch one more episode, take one more hit, masturbate one more time. And then hopefully push myself past the point of exhaustion where I can just pass out immediately without any quiet moments of self-reflection. I even started putting headphones in and listening to music and sleep hypnosis YouTube channels so I could keep my mind focused on something else all the way up until my brain turned off. But you can’t suppress those feelings forever.
You ever wake up crying? It’s been happening more and more for me lately. It’s like that sad beast is upset I cheated him out of our alone time and he waits all night for me, with his paws on my chest, just watching and waiting. And the second my eyes pop open, he pounces. And I just start crying. I’m still under my blankets, head still on my pillow, and I’m crying. It’s a hell of a way to start your day.
Sometimes I can’t even make it til morning. I have nightmares about Danielle. Very unsubtle nightmares. I have nightmares about her new bf/fiance/husband. I have nightmares about losing my son. I feel like even when I do sleep, it’s a very shallow sleep. I’m always on the verge of waking up. During these nightmares, I’m often aware that I’m laying in my bed, dreaming, and it’s hard to tell when I’ve woken up. I never sleep more than 4-5 hours at a time, but often less than that. I take naps during the day. I don’t know if it’s just because I’m so exhausted by midday, or if the daylight feels less lonely, but it’s always easier to fall asleep during the day.
What I’ve come to realize is how perfectly amazing it is to sleep with another person. I completely took it for granted when I actually had someone who wanted to sleep with me. I never ever wanted to snuggle with Danielle. I just couldn’t fall asleep that way. She liked spooning, but I slept comically straight. Like a board. Flat on my back, hands at my side, and I never tossed or turned. And I loved thin, flat pillows, so that my head was just barely higher than the rest of my body. In one of those cute couple conundrums, she could only sleep if she was touching me, and I could only fall asleep if I wasn’t being touched by anything. But I would usually fall asleep incredibly fast and then she would creep her feet over to my legs, and her butt up against my hand. And now, that’s all I want.
It’s so so so SO comforting to just be next to someone else. I even settle for sleeping in the same house as other people. That’s why I stayed at my parents’ all this week. I finally got home late Thursday, got to my room, and saw Ethan’s empty bed, which instantly reminded me that she still won’t let me have him back, reminded me how much I missed him, reminded me that I really was all alone. So I dropped my duffle and just left. Walked around downtown all night. Went to sleep around 4. Goddamnit I want my son back.
I started piling pillows next to and on top of me before going to sleep. It helps. I totally changed my sleeping positions too. I bought a big, thick pillow and now sleep almost entirely on my side (which I’ve never done before), often wrapping my arms and legs around another pillow, pretending I’m not alone. But nothing beats sleeping next to someone else. I love it. Because the beast isn’t there if someone else is. Like there’s not enough room for all three of us in this bed so he stays in his cage, presumably not happy about it, but fuck him.
I’ve had sex with women just so I could snuggle with them afterwards. Actually, I’d say that’s the main reason I have sex. I mean, I’ve had fun, good ol horny sex (at least twice!) but 90% of the time I’m doing it because I just can’t cry myself to sleep again tonight. Because I just don’t want to be alone. And it’s AMAZING!! Oh my God, sleep just comes so EASILY. You can’t appreciate it until you’ve spent a year BEGGING your body to just let you fall asleep. And suddenly, it’s just. so. easy. There’s this beautiful, sweet person wrapped around you. Her skin is warm and soft and her smells great and she LIKES you. Even if just for a night, even if just for pretend, she LIKES you. For at least one night you are liked and you are loved and you don’t feel like a completely worthless piece of shit, so that quiet little moment in the dark is actually peaceful. It’s actually welcome. You can embrace it because it feels good tonight. You feel good. And while there’s a nagging little feeling that whispers it’s not going to last for long, that’s one that you can suppress, at least until after breakfast.
And then you fall asleep.
Now I’m gonna go tell a bunch of people I don’t know a bunch of jokes that I don’t really like, but I’ll be grateful for the excuse to pretend to be happy, grateful for the applause because it feels something like love. Then I’m gonna see my friends and try to convince them to stay up as late as possible. Then I’ll probably annoy somebody and ask if I can crash on their couch (which is great because the cushions snuggle up against you!). And then I’ll stay as busy as I can tomorrow and the next day and the next and the next until one day, I’m not as sad anymore. That’s the plan anyway.
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This is a very long story about a t-shirt

11 months ago I had a weekend run in Nampa-Salem-Spokane. And I was excited because it was the perfect set up for a weekend getaway. We could all drive to Idaho together, leave Ethan with the grandparents, and Danielle and I could have some much-needed alone time. We would have nice hotel rooms each night, nice drives through beautiful Oregon and Washington each day, and just some time to talk about everything.

About an hour or two after we started the road trip I was so excited for, she told me she wanted a “trial separation.” She told me she already arranged to live in our friend’s basement for a while and she could move in right away. Needless to say, it was a weird weekend.

We finally made it to Salem and I had to perform that night and she watched the Revenant by herself. The next day we drove to Spokane. At a couple different points in the car ride, she was messaging guys on Tinder while riding shotgun next to me.

I did Billy Anderson’s Gateway show that night in Spokane and it was amazing. It was the very first time I had ever gotten high and I was excited because Danielle had wanted me to smoke with her for a while at that point, but I was always too scared to. It had been one of the many areas in which I felt we were growing alarmingly apart. She had felt so distant from me and it was really scaring me. I was excited to show her I could be cool, be on her level, and have a great time with her.

And we did! Oh my god, it was a great night. I had fun at the show, but afterwards was even better. I was just in such a great mood and so so so happy. Naive as I was, I didn’t fully attribute this to the weed. In my mind, we were just so happy TOGETHER. We watched Game of Thrones and laughed a lot and had hands down the greatest sex of my life. It was other worldly. I felt like I disappeared inside of her soul. I. Was. So. Happy. Again, naive as I was, I mistook breakup sex for makeup sex. I fell asleep with my arm around her thinking, “We did it. We fixed it. Look how happy we are. It can be like this all the time. We’re gonna get so much better.”

But the morning came and the first words she said to me were, “So I think I’m going to leave on Wednesday.” I. Was. Crushed. She was still leaving. After that? After all that? She still wants to go? Why does she still want to go? Wasn’t she happy last night? Why is she leaving? Why is she doing this? What’s wrong with me? Oh my God she’s going to leave me. Oh my God oh my God oh my god oh my god oh my god oh my

The next few hours were kinda blurry. It’s very possible I was still high from the night before but I was also in a daze, trying to accept what was happening. But the next thing I knew, we were in the car, driving back to Boise. We had about a 7 hour drive ahead of us that day, and I cried for probably 5 of them.

I can’t remember much of what happened or what I said or what she said. I do know she told me I was sad and needy, and I know didn’t really disprove that opinion when I literally begged her to please make love to me one more time on the way home. But somewhere in this heartbroken fugue state, we stopped at a gas station and while inside, I impulsively bought a Seattle Seahawks t-shirt for $20. I know I wasn’t myself because I would never spend that much money on a shirt, definitely not one from a gas station. But I think I knew it was the end, and some part of me just wanted some kind of souvenir, something to commemorate our last day together.

We eventually made it to my parents’ house in Boise and I spent another 36 hours crying and begging her not to leave. I promised everything and tried everything and bore my soul bare and she would hold me until I cried myself to sleep and I would wake up to find her chatting with guys on OK Cupid.

Wednesday morning came and she kept her promise to leave. She drove to Portland, where she had a date that night with a guy she matched with on Tinder while in the car with me a few days prior. I went to an open mic.

But I also put on that Seahawks t-shirt for the very first time. It fit perfectly. I wouldn’t take it off until 4 days later. It was a very rough time, and showers weren’t really in the cards for me that week. I would sit and stare blankly, I would lie in bed and cry, and I would anxiously pace my parents’ basement all night long while occasionally logging into Danielle’s OK Cupid account to see her conversations with random dudes so that I could have something to anxiously pace/scream about (“I’m actually getting divorced too lol”). But I did it all in that stupid Seahawks t-shirt.

I wore it all summer. It was instantly my favorite shirt. I even wrote a joke about it. I don’t know why I get attached to articles of clothing, but I do. And boy, did I get attached to this one. It honestly felt like a friend. Or maybe comfort blanket is a better/less creepy way to describe it. I would wear it when I was in a great mood and going out with friends. I would put it on when I was in a terribly sad mood and it would make me feel better. I would wear it when I had to see her and I was so scared that I would cry in front of her (again) and it would make me feel safe and confident. I’ve worn it so much in the last 11 months, that all the letters are already cracked and peeling off.

This is all on my mind because I had a show in northern Idaho this weekend, and since Danielle told me I couldn’t have Ethan at all this week, I didn’t see much reason in going back home. I decided to go stay with my parents for a little while so I wouldn’t be alone. So yesterday, after dropping another comic off at the Spokane airport, I ended up making that exact same drive to Boise that we made together 11 months ago.

It was an absolutely gorgeous drive. I wish I had gotten better pictures. At this point in the spring, all the mountains were still snow capped and all the valleys were a bright, vibrant green. Rivers were raging with snowmelt. Lakes were still frozen, but surrounded by yellow and purple wildflowers. And all of this was underneath an unbelievably bright blue sky dotted with perfect, snowy white clouds, and totally permeated by a surreal, bitter nostalgia.

I remember so much more than I thought I did. As I drove over lush, green hills, I could remember us driving through there. I could remember what we were listening to at certain points of the drive. Along the way, I remembered every spot where she asked to stop so she could get out and take pictures that I would never get to see while I stayed in the car and cried alone, taking my own mental snapshots of her. I could see her perfectly framed through the passenger window standing on the edge of a river near Lewiston, her camera to her eye and her back to me.

But it wasn’t that bad. Definitely melancholy, certainly surreal, but not utterly depressing. I actually enjoyed the drive, taking in the scenery and listening to the end of “It.” And when I saw that same gas station, I stopped and went inside again. I found their clothes rack and while it was now mostly hoodies and winter apparel, they had three Seahawks t-shirts still on the rack. So I bought another one. Because I fucking love that shirt.